Boston and New Hampshire area - what to do and see with a baby?
August 3, 2013 12:21 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are flying to Boston this month with our 11 month old. We will arrive in Boston early on a Thursday then have an event to attend at the University of New Hampshire on Friday. We leave the area the following Tuesday afternoon. What should we make a point to do and see when we've never visited the New England area before?

We will pick up a rental car at Logan and have it for the duration of our trip. We have been warned against trying to visit NYC with a baby but it seems kind of silly to finally get out there and not see some important history. One big question there: is it possible to drive a car and park near the ferry for the Statue of Liberty?

The event in New Hampshire is scheduled and will cover all of Friday. The questions surround the other days. Should we get our car and go straight to New Hampshire and stay there from Thursday until Saturday morning? This beautiful nature aspect is very appealing as we live in the drought stricken Texas-Oklahoma part of the US. I know from Google that the mountains in northern NH are awesome so maybe we should just head up there until Sunday then spend Sunday-Tuesday exploring Boston and maybe NYC.

I only started traveling in the last couple of years and took my first plane trip this year. I want to make the most of this trip but my experiences are pretty much limited to the Midwest so I am overwhelmed with the possibilities. Please help us make a great itinerary that won't be too much for our old, tired selves or our sweet baby.
posted by justlisa to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is my stomping ground! UNH has a beautiful library, and on campus they have something over by the train station called the Dairy Bar which has amazing ice cream and local-grown food. Be sure to eat lunch there.

Driving all over creation is going to be stressful. I recommend just going up to NH after you arrive at Logan--it will take you about an hour and a half in normal traffic. Trying to fit NYC into this tiny trip is not a great idea, imho, especially with a little human in tow!

UNH is also just a few miles from the beautiful NH seacoast. If I were spending just a few days I would focus on spending a day at scenic Rye Beach, catching a lobster roll at the Beach Plum (along the beautiful coastal drive) and then getting some history in Portsmouth, NH in its quaint and historic downtown area--visiting Strawberry Banke would a fun day activity. Portsmouth has more restaurants per capita than most American cities! Amazing places to eat. Check out yelp to find a place or two suited to your favorite flavors.

In Boston, you should take the little one to the Children's Museum or try a Duck Tour. A tour of the Freedom trail is also fun and historic, although there may be a bit more walking than you'd like. Make sure you spend some time in the North End and get pastries from either Modern Pastry or Mike's (I'm a Mike's girl myself!). Bon voyage!
posted by araisingirl at 12:37 PM on August 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'd go the other direction, spend some time in the Mountains of NH and then if you want to move around, visit the seacoast of Maine with your other days. It's a solid half-day drive just to get to NYC from Durham, NH, so unless you really want to visit that city, I'd save it for another trip. There's a ton of stuff to do in and around Boston, too, so if you need a city fix, my recommendation would be get it there on your first or last days.
posted by gauche at 12:40 PM on August 3, 2013

Or what araisingirl said.
posted by gauche at 12:40 PM on August 3, 2013

I *really* wouldn't want to add driving from Boston to NYC and back into that (short) trip, myself; I was really surprised when I saw that idea in your "more inside." I'd stay in New England and see pretty nature things. And Boston itself is full of history. There's lots of stuff around that doesn't require the absolutely no fun, horrific drive to NYC! The ocean! Mountains!

Mystic, CT? History + ocean!

Plymouth Rock is *really* disappointing, IME, but hey, it's extremely historic.

Newport, RI has all the big historic houses. And ocean.

Duck Tour in Boston (it's an amphibious vehicle thing that goes on the water and on land; it's cool, and your baby might like making duck noises?...).

You could also go west from the Boston/NH area and come see Western MA. I'm biased because I live here, but it's gorgeous (trees and greenery everywhere), the Berkshires are awesome (not as big as some other mountains, but so pretty), and it's summer so there's things like Tanglewood. Tons of culture/arts.

Just *NOT* NYC this trip.
posted by lysimache at 1:53 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another nice historical town that has been redone into shops and restaurants is Newburyport, MA. It's a little bit off the highway near the Mass/NH border, at the mouth of the Merrimac River. You could hit that on your way up from Logan, we have taken my son there and he liked it a lot. Yes it is a bit touristy but locals are cynical and it really is a neat town for out of staters to visit.

I recommend Michael's Harborside. It's right on the water, as the name suggests.

From there, you could get back on the highway or take Route 1 up until you have to cut over the Durham. Salisbury Beach State Park has some nice dunes, Hampton Beach is okay (but would avoid the arcades), or pass on by and you will see Rye Beach come up. You gotta see the ocean!

Nthing Strawberry Banke and Portsmouth.

You could also take a day trip to the Kancamagus Highway. Say you do Portsmouth on Saturday and then do the Kanc on Sunday and stay overnight in Conway or N. Conway. Gas up and eat before you head up the highway. There are pull offs for scenic overlooks but no restaurants. I think the actual Kanc drive is about an hour or so with gas and amenities on either end.

Then you could head on over the back roads through Bridgton to Portland, Maine, very scenic, and check out the Old Port and the Eastern Prom, which has your requisite cannon overlooking Casco Bay. Have lunch (DeMillo's, Becky's Diner, Duck Fat, or Silly's), and go over the big drawbridge to S. Portland and check out Portland Head Light in nearby Cape Elizabeth, which lighthouse was commissioned by George Washington. Tons of grass and picnic tables and overflow parking. Plus you get your dose of rocky Maine coast without veering too far off the beaten track.

Stay overnight in Portland (or maybe, say Ogunquit, which is pretty and a bit further south, I like The Beachmere Inn), and head to Boston on Monday for your Freedom Trail and Duck Tour, etc., and Tuesday you're flying out, right?

That's what I would do, I would skip the long drive to NYC for this trip. Bring hoodies or jackets, it gets chilly at night and near the water!! Leave room in your budget for buying a sweat shirt or two, you might need 'em!

Maybe someone can recommend the best Italian/Grinder sandwich in the Boston area, those are so good but it's been a while since I've been to a local place.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 1:53 PM on August 3, 2013

I'll chime in with the "not NYC" recommendation. It's a pain to get in/out of NYC, driving there is a bear (you have to really pay attention to rush hours, lest you get stuck in traffic for two hours, and with an 11 month old, I'm guessing you wouldn't want that), and there is so much to do in NYC, you'll never see it all and driving in NYC is terrible.

If you're going to be in NH, I'd agree with the NH/Maine idea, especially Portsmouth NH (it's adorable!) North in NH is gorgeous and rural if you're into that kind of thing.

If not, I'd suggest sticking to the coast, and hitting up Portsmouth, NH, maybe Newburyport and similar towns on the North Shore of MA, Boston, and maybe a jaunt down to Providence RI or Newport RI (as previously mentioned.) A nice drive/side trip while in RI might include a side-trip to Tiverton/Little Compton, or Westport MA. Plenty of history in all those places!
posted by absquatulate at 2:28 PM on August 3, 2013

Yeah---don't try to squeeze NYC in the trip. There is plenty to do in and around New England.

Northern NH and VT are fantastic. I love Burlington. And Hanover is really a nice little college town.

One option is to head up to Down East Maine. August in Maine is the best thing on the face of the Earth. If I had that time, I would drive up to Mount Desert (about 3-4 hours from Portsmouth, IIRC) and stay there. Could be hard to find a place, but, man, if you do, it is well worth it.
posted by chiefthe at 2:46 PM on August 3, 2013

Best answer: Everyone else has already said it but forget NYC. If you want history, it's in Boston. NYC is super stressful, it is not like Boston where you can just drive around and have an easy time dealing with a baby, and with such a short trip you would be spending too much of it in the car and not enough exploring my very favorite part of the country.

Here is what I would do with your itinerary.
Thursday: arrive in Boston. You will be tired from traveling with a baby and want easy things to do. Wander around Faneuil Hall and Haymarket. If you're interested, check out the Freedom Trail (Faneuil Hall is part of it). Have lunch in the North End, which is a quick walk from Faneuil Hall area - it is worth it so unless you are really inspired by something there, don't eat at Faneuil Hall itself. Get the cannoli, I prefer Modern over Mike's but both are good. Or gelato if that is more your style. If you have any more time to kill, head to Boston Museum of Science. This is also worth it despite the price. The Mugar OMNI theater is the greatest IMAX style theater I have *ever* been to. You do have to pay extra for an OMNImax or planetarium show. Planetarium show might be the sort of thing you could do with a baby strapped to you, asleep, although OMNImax is super loud and not really baby friendly. The New England aquarium is one of the nation's best and I imagine a baby would enjoy looking at all the fishes there. All of these attractions are just short T rides from downtown/the airport and do not require much schlepping around, you really would not need the car until after doing this stuff.
Friday: at UNH.
Saturday: Drive north to Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, on Lake Winnipesaukee. This is a beautiful little tourist town on the lakeside with wonderful little shops and restaurants. There are lake cruises you can do on the M/S Mount Washington that you may enjoy. You could also stop at the Loon Center as you go onwards. There are many other fun little things to do in the area.
Sunday: Mount Washington, an hour and 45 mins north of Wolfeboro. It is the highest peak in New England, totally a must-see. I linked to the auto road, but I actually would recommend the Cog Railway. I am completely uninterested in trains, but I loved the Cog Railway. There are many other things to see in the area including the Flume Gorge, a lovely hike. The Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods is gorgeous and historic, if you can afford the costly price, but there are other places to stay. Actually, considering the baby thing, I would stay Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights at some location in between Wolfeboro and Mount Washington, which will be a further drive from Durham but pay off because you won't have to move around. I recommend a quaint New England B&B, although I have no specific recommendation (that said, I myself recently purchased this Travelzoo deal for a lovely looking inn in Jackson, NH - haven't stayed there yet but it looks really nice and has good reviews. And they told me they have a cottage that can accommodate people with a baby).
Monday: Portland, Maine, you will have to move to a new place to stay, but it's about a 1.5 hour drive from the area I was just talking about. Have a lobstah roll. Go to the beach. Walk on the Marginal Way (in Ogunquit, which is a wonderful place I totally agree you should visit).

If you stayed in Ogunquit Monday night, Logan is just a 1.5 hour drive south, which you could do in a leisurely way after breakfast on Tuesday to leave late Tues afternoon. You could stop in Portsmouth or a number of other places on your way south.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:47 PM on August 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Take the baby to the Make Way for Ducklings statues in the Boston public garden
posted by brujita at 3:48 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Tsk tsk. Ten answers and no one has mentioned the Swan Boats in the Public Garden? It's also adjacent to lovely Beacon Hill and Louisburg Square.

Note, driving in Boston is not for the faint of heart. They're called Massholes for a reason.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:08 PM on August 3, 2013

For some light reading on your first journey to Boston, may I suggest the Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White. It is a children's book but involves a swan's first trip to Boston. I read it as a kid and all the Boston stuff that's in it (sites, etc.) really stuck with me when I finally moved to MA and saw Boston for the first time.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 6:53 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

You do not want to drive from Boston to NYC. It takes five to six hours (it took seven hours once), and you spend most of it sitting in terrible traffic in Connecticut. It's not even a pretty drive. If you're 100% set on NYC, take Amtrak; that's what I do when I go home to visit my folks in the tri-state area. I see babies and little kids on Amtrak all the time.

Maine is super close to New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and it's beautiful. Seriously. Marginal Way is great. It's this footpath filled with views of cliffs and the ocean. If you go in the early morning, you have it all to yourself and it's beautiful. Also: Lobster rolls. And the beaches are great, but the ocean up there is freaking cold unless you're used to it (you get used to it after a couple of days). The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is also really pretty, but you need to wear bug spray (or you'll get eaten alive within five minutes. Ask me how I know).

If you end up in Boston and like art/craft fairs and food trucks, go to the SoWa Open Market in the South End on a Sunday or the Greenway Open Market on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in downtown Boston on a Saturday. There's also a really cute independent theatre in Harvard Square called The Brattle Theatre if you're into that sort of thing. Harvard Square is otherwise very touristy, though, so enter at your own risk. If you wind up hunting for Italian pastries, Modern Pastry is awesome and a billion times less touristy than Mike's.

Also, if you end up in Boston, park the car somewhere and take the T. Driving is no fun here. The drivers are called Massholes for a reason.
posted by topoisomerase at 7:04 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

araisingirl has it. In Portsmouth you can catch an evening concert or the summer musical Annie at Prescott Park Arts Festival. This really is your best bet - that area is a delightful summer destination and you can't really do better by scrambling all over creation. Base yourselves there and enjoy.
posted by Miko at 7:54 PM on August 3, 2013

Response by poster: Great answers!! We have kind of combined some things from all the suggestions and hopefully aren't over-extending ourselves. So far it looks like this:

Thurs: Arrive at Boston Logan and drive to Amesbury, MA and likely take a long nap in the afternoon. Stay all night there.

Fri: Durham, NH then to friend's house near Concord. Stay all night in Concord.

Sat: Drive up to Kennebunkport, ME and then back down the coast, stopping at Marginal Way and Rye Beach. Make it to Boston in the late evening and stay Sat night there.

Sun: Explore Boston and meet up with friends. Stay another night.

Mon: Drive up north to Mt Washington. Play it by ear as deciding where to spend the night either in that area or back closer to Boston.

Tues. Make our way back to Boston. Fly out in the evening.

Too aggressive?? I love everyone's ideas and am so glad I asked.
posted by justlisa at 9:20 PM on August 4, 2013

Response by poster: Wanted to follow up with what we ended up doing. On Thursday, we landed in Boston and had the rental car by 7AM. Drove to our hotel in Amesbury, MA and dropped our stuff off then drove up to Kennebunkport, Maine. Tourists everywhere!! That is one busy community. In some places it took five minutes to drive a block. Beautiful scenery and fun to people watch.

We drove down the coast, stopping at the Marginal Way and walked part of it. We were totally exhausted from flying all night and just didn't have the legs under us to walk very far but what we did see was breathtaking and well worth the stop. Continued down the coast, stopping every now and then to take pictures.

Friday we drove to Durham, NH for the retirement ceremony. It absolutely poured rain almost the entire day so we didn't get to see Durham at all. Stayed the night in Concord then got up Saturday and went to our friends home in Chichester. The hills of middle New Hampshire are beautiful. It was quite the windy trip up and down and all round to their place and fun to get off the beaten path. After a nice lunch, we headed up to the mountains. Due to the late hour and the baby, we didn't get to go up to the Flume but we did visit the rest of Franconia Notch.

Saturday night through Tuesday we stayed in Boston and walked miles and miles. We did the Super Duck Tour that includes a boat tour of the waterway and Boston Harbor and two days of trolley use. The trolley was very helpful as I walked so much that I ended up with an injured toe. The tour guides did an amazing job of talking about their city and the history. We saw the Make Way for Ducklings in the Public Garden. Had a beer at Cheers. Ate at Legal Seafoods near the aquarium. We didn't have time to visit the aquarium though. Took the Sam Adams brewery tour and found ourselves wishing we had skipped the mountains and enjoyed another day in Boston. We are definitely going back soon. If you wonder about visiting Boston, stop wondering and do it! We didn't have a single bad experience and even the homeless people were very happy to welcome us to their city.
posted by justlisa at 12:06 PM on August 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

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